Some say women are chameleons, especially if they have a romantic “target” in mind. So where is the line between being flexible, adaptable, open to change… versus inauthentic?
Is there anything wrong with that? Is “authenticity” always desirable?
Some of us are more apt to slip on a second skin as easily as a kid glove, perhaps when visiting another country, or finding ourselves in dramatically different circumstances. We adjust, we consider new options, we embrace change as we all must, whether temporary or permanent.
Most of Us Claim “Change Is Good”
We’re told that it’s important to be flexible in life, to be adaptable to new situations, that “change is good.”
I’ve been thinking about change, ways in which I’ve changed who I am (or not), ways in which I haven’t changed (and should), and my assumption that others can change if they wish to… though they may not.
And I do wonder — just wonder — if women are more malleable than men, or if that’s pure mythology. But if it is so, then why? Is it a matter of cultural conditioning? Temperament? Survival?
I have certainly observed that women are more willing to change — their bodies, their habits, even their opinions. (This last is especially disturbing to me.) And I’ve known myself to adapt to a variety of circumstances, though I ask myself if “adapt” is a euphemism for altering oneself to the extreme, or compromise that goes too far.
But let’s be more specific, shall we?
What I have experienced — and too often despaired — is the extent to which women will turn themselves inside out to become the person they believe someone else wants them to be. Yet we all do it to a degree, don’t we?
Changing Yourself for the One You Love
Would you change yourself for the one you love?
Most of us have, if only in small, insignificant ways.
For example, if a man I’m involved with has a color preference when it comes to my wardrobe, I may wear his favorite hue more often than I would otherwise, as long as it’s a color that I also like. And why not?
If he adores historical documentaries, I’m also likely to join in, though it might not be my cup of tea initially. And why not?
I would hope he expresses a similar willingness to share activities that are important to me.
What if he likes to eat a cozy dinner at 10 pm? Pass the healthy salad and pour the glass of wine! But if we’re not living in Spain, this one is a little bit tougher. Eating so late doesn’t sit well, physically. That adjustment isn’t for me. Perhaps we could compromise and dine at eight.
And on matters of making love, don’t most of us, of both sexes, enjoy pleasing our partners? Aren’t we likely to explore, exchange, and to a degree — agreeably — adapt?
But politics? Values? Issues of character?
Now we’re talking about change that we may legitimately resist.
Female Chameleon, Anyone?
I might term it the Female Chameleon Syndrome. And no, I don’t anticipate that Big Pharma will come calling with a broadly advertised med, lobbying to counteract the effects of women changing their spots.
After all, the world seems to like its women… compliant, don’t you think?
Nor am I against being accommodating to those we love, pushing our boundaries (when we choose), and exercising those all important adjustment skills I mentioned initially, skills that help us succeed and feel comfortable in new situations.
So. Are we truly more capable of change, or more conditioned to conform as a means of survival? If either is the case, is it a positive, a negative, or does that depend on the nature of the change we’re undertaking?
If these are external or physical changes, are we buying into a Happily Ever After Beauty Myth — right, that best body requirement especially — and wasting valuable time and dollars while we’re at it? Or are we addressing self-esteem issues that can be improved by tweaking this and touching up that?
Are we more likely to attempt change and youthful appearance-oriented change at that — concerned with the perceptions of others? Or is all fair in love and war, in rekindling recognition of the face we wash in the mirror, not to mention — job searching?
The Nature of Changing… Nature
I realize that “change” is a broad term, and whether change is deemed positive or negative is highly subjective. There are changes that serve our health; a reasonable diet and exercise is “good” whereas extremes may be seen as “bad.” There are changes in behavior and habits; deflecting criticism through humor may be protective, but to an extreme, counter-productive.
There are changes that make us more marketable when looking for jobs, dealing with the public, or in the romantic arena; naturally, these include beauty rituals, and what we may loosely consider as fashion and style.
We want to be loved for who we are, yet we tend to work on the wrapping rather than what’s inside.
Come on. What straight woman hasn’t considered the way the Boyfriend likes her hair or Hubby’s preference for ruby red lipstick?
Losing Ourselves for Others Is Still Losing
At the most fundamental level, what I fear is a willingness to bend one’s will in the extreme, to adopt altered political or other personal ideologies, to throw away precious dollars on pointless diets, to tinker and tweak and never feel good enough, to spend countless hours at activities of no interest, and in general, to tie one’s true self up into knots in order to attract, to please, to hang onto – a man.
To some degree, I’ve experienced this in my own life, in marriage. But I was well-schooled long before that, in most relationships which taught me to please others first, and myself, last. At midlife, I still feel the tug from time to time, but I am beginning to distinguish reasonable compromise from giving myself away, particularly when in a relationship.
If women are more apt to adapt, why must it take so long to achieve a livable balance? How do we find that line, and know when not to cross it?
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